Hill area doctor: pandemic forced people to read lips

by Len Lear
Posted 8/13/21

“Before the pandemic, many patients did not want to admit that they had a hearing loss. The pandemic and use of masks have really forced people to realize how much they read lips and facial expressions."

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Hill area doctor: pandemic forced people to read lips

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“Before the pandemic, many patients did not want to admit that they had a hearing loss. The pandemic and use of masks have really forced people to realize how much they read lips and facial expressions. A simple trip to the grocery store can prove to be a struggle for patients because it is so difficult to hear the cashier. I think people typically do not want to admit that they have a hearing loss till the burden of it is really affecting their daily life.”

This is the observation of Dr. Lisa Mariello-Baiada, 39, who grew up in Flourtown and has not strayed far from her roots. She now lives in Erdenheim and runs her medical practice, Flourtown Audiology, which treats hearing loss more than any other issue, although there are others as well.

“Take tinnitus, for example,” she said last week. “Tinnitus is the complaint of ringing, buzzing, chirping, etc., in the ears and is often a symptom of hearing loss. So a patient will come in with hearing loss and during the consult will also mention, 'Oh, I also have a high-pitched ringing in my ears.' Hearing loss is what brings patients to the office, but it is not unusual to find some other ear-related issues.”

Dr. Mariello-Baiada is a graduate of St. Genevieve School and Mount Saint Joseph Academy, both in Flourtown. She earned her B.S. degree in small animal science from Delaware Valley College, an M.S. degree in microbiology from Thomas Jefferson University and a doctorate in audiology from Salus University.
In 2007, Dr. Mariello-Baiada was pursuing her master’s degree, and as part of her thesis, she was doing research with breast and ovarian cancer cells. Ironically, the drug that she was working with had been proven to have toxic properties and caused hearing loss in cancer patients. “Although the research was fascinating, I was often working independently. I realized that I wanted to be working more with people.”

A friend suggested that she check out Salus University, previously known as the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, which was starting an audiology doctorate program. “When I visited, I loved the campus and facilities. I knew I'd get a great education and that there were many opportunities in the field of audiology. So I applied, and the rest, as they say, is history!”

Speaking of those opportunities, Lisa has recently been working with a colleague to grow the cochlear implant program at the Pennsylvania Ear Institute in Elkins Park. “It is new territory for me, but I've enjoyed what I've been learning so far!”

Dr. Mariello-Baiada now practices medicine in the same community she grew up in, a rare phenomenon these days. “It has been such a joy to practice here in the community I grew up in,” she said. “I continue to see familiar faces and share stories with patients. I want to show my children that caring for the community and forming connections with people can be an amazing experience.”

Dr. Mariello-Baiada did a great deal of community outreach and gave seminars on hearing loss before the pandemic and hopes to start doing them again soon. Regarding the pandemic, it has (not surprisingly) made the local audiologist's life more complicated, both personally and professionally.

“When the stay-at-home order initially started,” she explained, “it was difficult to navigate how to run the practice and be there for my children, who were 4 and 1 at the time. Being in healthcare, I was considered essential, but I was unable to dispense hearing aids due to an order by the state of Pennsylvania.

“So I closed the office for three months till the order was lifted and stayed at home with my children. I did see emergency patients by appointment and utilized a curbside service. I wanted people to receive care but also feel safe and comfortable. I was finally able to open in June and have remained operating since then.”

When asked about the hardest thing she ever had to do, the hearing specialist replied, “The hardest thing is actually happening right now — running my audiology practice, teaching at the Pennsylvania Ear Institute and being a wife and mom. It’s not until someone mentions to me about my 'full plate' that I realize all that I am juggling on a daily basis.”

For more information, visit flourtownaudiology.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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